By Juan Mendoza
Public transportation for many people in Los Angeles is the only mode of transportation. People from all backgrounds ride the bus and Los Angeles Metro Rail every day to go to different parts of the city.
The Metro Rail covers 93 stations. The estimated ridership on Metro buses on a normal weekday can surpass 550,000, according to L.A. Metro.
“The system is convenient for many people,” said Anthony Pedrosa. “It’s affordable and efficient. I’ll ride the bus every day to work, and they are always on time.”
But the age of coronavirus has changed Pedrosa’s mind. He no longer has the same view of riding the bus in Los Angeles.
Because of the pandemic, the Metro bus system has modified the travel schedule. Bus service had been reduced by 15 to 20 percent, according to the transit agency. And other “adjustments” have been made.
“Now buses are not running more often than before, and (buses) are overcrowded, which I do not like that,” Pedrosa said.
The MTA says fewer people are traveling to work since the pandemic—but crowded buses suggest otherwise.
The pandemic has brought changes to Metro riders. To assist with social distancing, all able-bodied Metro bus riders must board and exit through the rear door. The exceptions to that rule are wheelchair users and others who need the wheelchair ramp—only they can use the front door of the bus.
Because the bus is not equipped with a tap machine in the back, people are getting free rides. These preventative measures are to protect the bus drivers from close contact with the riders who might be infected with the coronavirus.
Metro has installed transparent barriers to protect the bus operators. Gel hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed at bus stops for public use along the routes to prevent the spread of COVID-19 before passengers board the vehicle.
Hand sanitizer aside, the fact remains that the buses are overcrowded.
“We ask that all riders do their best to practice social distancing once aboard the bus — that is, spread out and try to stay at least six feet from other riders,” former L.A. Times reporter Steve Hymon wrote in a statement on the sourcemetro.net blog on March 22, 2020.
This is impossible on many Metro bus lines.
Passengers often stand in the middle aisle of the bus as they ride to their destination unless a seat is available. On a crowded bus, passengers always bump into each other. They really have no choice because they must get to their destination. They either take the bus or wait for another 25 minutes to take the next bus, which will be just as crowded.
Some riders travel the Metro bus lines without a face mask.
“Riders are not taking this pandemic seriously. And it is an irresponsible act not to wear a self-protection mask,” Metro rider David Stevenson said.
Stevenson is a frequent bus rider. He seems like a responsible and conscientious person, as he wears his mask and gloves to protect himself and other passengers.
“We should be taking the safety precautions when going on the bus and being outside of the home, because we are at high risk of getting infected,” he said.